by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
With Iron Man 3 opening last Friday to record box-office numbers, the Summer Movie Season is officially off and running, Hollywood unveiling its flashiest wares in hopes of achieving warm-weather dominance. As usual, the slate is filled with the typical hodgepodge of sequels, remakes, and reboots - big stars working within the confines of even bigger budgets attempting to bring to life stories and situations mass audiences will flock to in droves.
May is particularly packed, with sequels to four $200-million-plus domestic box-office titans all seeing releases within a scant four weeks of one another. After the aforementioned arrival of Tony Stark, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, and The Hangover Part III all vie for attention, each hoping to outdo their predecessors both stateside and in international markets.
But there are a few genuine curiosities among the heavy hitters. Baz Luhrmann's expensive, musically adventurous (and long-delayed) adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece The Great Gatsby is coming out this Friday, and the intriguing sci-fi thriller After Earth, pairing star Will Smith and his son Jaden under the direction of the recently much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan, hits theaters May 31. Smaller-scale efforts of note include new works from Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) and Susanne Bier (Love Is All You Need), while the star-studded (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, and Mélanie Laurent) Las Vegas-set magician-fueled thriller Now You See Me might just prove to be the month's most intriguing curiosity.
June's lineup of heavyweights begins with director Zach Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan's reinterpretation of the Superman mythology, Man of Steel, while Pixar dips into its well of animated classics for the prequel Monsters University. Otherwise, comedies - including The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, This Is the End with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Emma Watson, and The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy - are the main attractions vying for viewers' attentions. The biggest question mark, however, has to be the Brad Pitt-led graphic-novel adaptation World War Z. With a budget well over $200 million, it is easily the most expensive zombie flick ever to be splashed across the celluloid. All in all, Summer 2013 looks to be an interesting one at the multiplex.
The following is a list of films and events scheduled to hit the Seattle market during May and June. Release dates are subject to change, so be sure to check your local listings.
Translations Film Festival - Three Dollar Bill Cinema's celebration of all things Transgender returns for an eighth year. Kicking off the festivities is the live multimedia event Gender Failure, featuring animation and video elements from Seattle artist Clyde Petersen. (See related article in this issue.)
The Great Gatsby - Baz Luhrmann's hugely expensive 3D reimagining of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic finally sees the light of day in all its musically dexterous and visually flashy glory. Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and Isla Fisher star (see review in this issue).
Kiss of the Damned - Inspired by the erotic European vampire movies of the 1970s, Xan Cassavetes' narrative debut is a seductively sensual experience into obsession and lust filled with intriguing images and beguiling moments certain to get the heart pumping. Considering the film is about the blood-sucking undead, the irony of the foregoing sentence is not lost on me.
Midnight's Children - Director Deepa Mehta and author Salman Rushdie join forces to produce a drama about two children born at the dawn of India's independence from Britain, growing up in a country entirely different from that of their parents' generation.
Tyler Perry Presents Peeples - Tyler Perry's first produced effort not written or directed by him concerns a man who crashes a family's annual retreat to the Hamptons to ask for their daughter's hand in marriage. Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington star.
MAY 16 - JUNE 9
Seattle International Film Festival - Seattle's 39th annual cinematic marathon kicks off with a screening of Joss Whedon's adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and closes with Sofia Coppola's ripped-from-the-headlines young-adult satire The Bling Ring. In between, expect over 400 different programs spotlighting films from around the globe. (For more on SIFF, see next week's SGN.)
At Any Price - Director Ramin Bahrani's farmland melodrama features a daring, oftentimes unlikable performance from star Dennis Quaid as a fourth-generation farmer looking to expand, in order to keep his family's heartland legacy alive. It doesn't always work and the final scenes left me suitably uncomfortable, but the emotion behind the drama is pure, making it a small-scale curiosity worthy of a peek.
The Iceman - True story of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, a supposedly loving family man and father who moonlighted as a mob assassin. Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, and Ray Liotta star.
Kon-Tiki - English-language version of the Norwegian oceanic adventure, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg essentially shooting their film twice - one version for the home audience and one for those abroad. Either way, this biopic chronicling Thor Heyerdahl's epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific to Polynesia is rousing, heart-stopping entertainment, and whether the dialogue is in English or in Norwegian, this is still a grand epic worthy of being seen on the largest screen possible.
Star Trek Into Darkness - J.J. Abrams boldly goes where the crew of the starship Enterprise has already gone before - saying anything more than that would be a gigantic spoiler. Simply put, the first two-thirds are epic, character-driven genius that had me on the edge of my seat, and if the final third hadn't made me so unbelievably angry we might have had something amazing to talk about.
Epic - Ice Age director Chris Wedge returns with a story of a teenage girl magically transported into a deep, mysterious world where the forces of good and evil are waging an eternal war.
Fast & Furious 6 - Prepare for more vehicular mayhem as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson, and Michelle Rodriguez re-up for another aventure on the open road.
Frances Ha - Auteur Noah Baumbach's latest slice of New York life is getting Oscar buzz for star Greta Gerwig's lead performance, while the movie itself was one of the darlings of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. One of my personally most anticipated movies of the entire summer.
The Hangover Part III - Plot points are being kept relatively hidden - all that really known is that this outing of the Wolfpack has nothing to do with a wedding and everything to do with Zach Galifianakis's man-child Alan taking the group back to Las Vegas for one more fling. Considering just how putrid the last entry in this series was, my expectations are being kept at a bare minimum.
In the House - François Ozon's latest is a sensational drama about an English prep-school teacher and his most promising student, the pair's relationship devolving into a twistedly surreal interpersonal nightmare that is both wickedly hysterical and emotionally poignant. Superb.
Love Is All You Need - Proof that a great cast can make the best of a clichéd situation, Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier's latest finds Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm navigating complicated interpersonal waters at the Greek wedding of their two beloved children. Despite this extremely familiar premise, the movie is enlivened by remarkable performances from the leads and subtle handling by the filmmaker, making the finished feature a surprisingly effective parable of love, loss, and regret.
After Earth - M. Night Shyamalan brings Will and Jaden Smith back to an Earth centuries after an apocalyptic event left it forever devastated and devoid of human life. I'm actually intrigued by this one, even if comparisons to everything from Oblivion to I Am Legend to WalloE are inevitable.
Now You See Me - Thriller about a team of Vegas illusionists who rob banks during their shows, showering the audience with money, while apparently never leaving the stage. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Cain, and Mélanie Laurent star.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks - Alex Gibney's documentary attempting to take an in-depth look at Julian Assange's controversial, game-changing website.
Dirty Wars - A documentary that follows journalist Jeremy Scahill as he digs into America's covert operations around the globe.
The Internship - Wedding Crashers stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite for this comedy about a pair of bumbling best friends who somehow finagle themselves a Google internship. Doesn't look promising, but the thought of these two bantering with each other once again is more than enough to pique my interest.
The Kings of Summer - This Sundance darling is about a group of teens who build a house in the woods and attempt to live off the land. Buzz is strong, and I can't wait to give this one a look.
The Purge - Ethan Hawke stars in this interesting-looking horror opus set in a future America where one night a week all criminal activity, including murder, is legal. The trailer is outstanding, but I worry that it gives away too much.
Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley's documentary about families and the stories they share has been the toast of every festival that has screened it. Another of my most anticipated films of this summer.
This Is the End - Kinda can't wait to see this: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson and many, many others all star as themselves in an end-of-the-world alien-invasion disaster comedy that, in theory, sounds as ribald and risqué as it does daring and inspired.
Before Midnight - The best movie I have seen in 2013 up to this point. Hands down. An almost-instant masterpiece and a fitting continuation of the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset saga of strangers becoming friends, friends becoming lovers, and lovers ultimately becoming a family.
The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola's fact-based observational satire of wealthy Los Angeles teens run amok, using the Internet to track celebrities in order to burglarize their homes. Cannot wait for this one, which will close this year's Seattle International Film Festival (see above).
Man of Steel - Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder try to reinvent Superman for modern audiences. Michael Shannon is General Zod, and that's the sole reason I am even slightly interested in seeing this one.
Sightseers - Director Ben Wheatley's inspired road-trip serial-killer 'comedy' about a romantically involved pair setting out on the vacation of a lifetime, only to see things go awry almost immediately. It's awesome. Don't miss it.
Fill the Void - Dramatically inert, if consistently intriguing, drama about a devout 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox Hasidic woman pressured by her mother to marry her dead older sister's widower, to keep the pair's only infant child within the family's loving embrace. I get why the film has met with praise but it left me cold, as I couldn't understand why this supposedly smart, energetic young woman would allow herself to be so blatantly manipulated by those who claim to love her.
Monsters University - Pixar returns to their classic well to deliver a prequel to Monsters, Inc. This new comedy shows how creatures James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski became an inseparable pair primed to save their world a generation hence.
Much Ado About Nothing - Joss Whedon's inspired, consistently entertaining adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy was shot on the fly and peopled by cast and crew from his 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Firefly,' and 'Dollhouse' television days. Close to outstanding, film is most notable for Amy Acker's almost Oscar-worthy turn as the love-denying silver-tongued Beatrice, the former 'Angel' darling traveling to heights even her most die-hard fans never could have anticipated.
Wish You Were Here - An Australian drama about a quartet of friends vacationing in Cambodia, only three of whom will ultimately return home. Felicity Price, Joel Edgerton, and Teresa Palmer star.
World War Z - Brad Pitt stars in this shockingly expensive adaptation of the Max Brooks source material (apparently little of which other than the title exists within the confines of the actual motion picture) about a world overrun by zombies and the daring soldier of fortune tasked with saving humanity from extinction. This movie cost reportedly in excess of $215 million, making it arguably the summer's most financially risky big-ticket proposition.
The Heat - Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star in this buddy-cop comedy from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. The trailer is a bit anemic, but Fox has so much faith in the title that the studio moved it from a relatively safe early 2013 release date right into the wilds of the summer movie season. Color me intrigued.
White House Down - In our second 'Die Hard in the White House' event movie of the year (Olympus Has Fallen being the first), Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx must save the President from a team of driven terrorists (led by Zero Dark Thirty's Jason Clarke) ready to do what it takes to see all he stands for ground into dust. Independence Day and 2012 maestro Roland Emmerich directs.
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